Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Rhinoceros hornbill at Matang Wildlife Centre

IT IS DIFFICULT to say how long Jerry has to be in rehab. How do you wean a rhinoceros hornbill of the affection and care that human beings have shown it for half its life?

For 15 years, Jerry was a pet of Beliang Mandang who bought it for RM35 in Tebedu. Home for Jerry was a longhouse in Sri Aman. When the time came for Beliang to part from Jerry, Beliang was heartbroken.

It seems tragic that the love of Beliang and his wife for Jerry had poisoned Jerry to the extent that it had to be rehabilitated.

When Jerry’s story and photo appeared on the front page of The Star last month, it caused quite a buzz. Not many people have seen a rhinoceros hornbill or burung kenyalang, much less one that is breathing.

You usually have a better chance of seeing one after a taxidermist has done his job, rather than in the wild. Not surprisingly, our reporter who wrote the story received several emails enquiring about Jerry and where it was now.

Jerry is at the Matang Wildlife Centre. It will be released into the wild when it can fend for itself, but the jungles today are not the same as when it was caught more than a decade ago.

Of the 12.4 million hectares in Sarawak, there is only 512,390ha where Jerry can be safe. Even then, the land is distributed over 18 national parks, four wildlife sanctuaries and five nature reserves, and not all the habitats are suitable for a rhinoceros hornbill, the largest species of hornbill.

Whether that tree with the hollow in which Jerry was hatched from an egg, and where its parents had cared for it, is still standing, nobody knows. What’s for sure is that Jerry and others like it are rare in Sarawak and desperately need human intervention to ensure their survival.

There are some who argue about whether Beliang was right in handing Jerry over to Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC). After all, he had cared for the bird for more than a decade and done a good job.

Beliang, however, did not have a choice. If he had not surrendered Jerry. a protected animal, he could have been fine RM25,000 or spent two years behind bars under the state’s Wild Life Protection Ordinance.

Let’s hope then, for Jerry’s sake, that the people at SFC will do a better job than Beliang.

The affinity of Sarawakians for the rhinoceros hornbill is expected.

We live in the Land of the Hornbill and the bird is in our state emblem. It is revered by ethnic groups in the state, particularly the Iban and Kayan.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Rhinoceros hornbill at Matang Wildlife Centre

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